Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 10 games of 2010

Another year and another top 10 games list. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept I present to you to the top 10 games that where I was in attendance. Unfortunately this year's list isn't as impressive as 2009's top 10 games, but there were still some memorable games. Below are the top 10 games:

10. Warriors at Timberwolves - Warriors won 116-107. The last spot on this list goes to a game that was so bad it was good. The Timberwolves only had 4 more games to go (all losses) on a dreadful season (even for them) and a below-average team like the Warriors wasn't one of those teams that really inspired much passion. It wasn't that exciting of a matchup despite my top-10 reasons why I was excited for the game. The national news story associated with the game was that that the Warriors coach Don Nelson became the NBA's all time winningest coach with this win. However, the reason that this game sticks in my mind was that I witnessed the laziest performances by any NBA player I have ever seen. Ronny Turiaf made $4,140,000 last year, which means that in that game alone he was paid $50K to jog around the court a few times and make little effort to actually play basketball. Below is a picture of Turiaf warming up....keep in mind it is a little tough to shoot, rebound or pass the ball with both hands in your pockets.

Turiaf played 22 minutes and in that time he was 1-2 from the field and had zero rebounds. You have to really try not to try to play 22 minutes as a 6-10 center and not get a single rebound. It really overshadowed great games by Anthony Tolliver and Stephen Curry.

9. Twins at Royals. Twins won 9-7 in 12 innings. The night of my bachelor party in Kansas City featured a game that went back and forth as both teams tried to give the other a chance to win the game. It looked like a Royals win until Justin Morneau hit a 431 foot dead center field 2 run home run in the 7th inning. The Royals were a sacrifice fly away from winning in the 10th, but being the Royals (and being Yuniesky Betancourt) they couldn't manage that. Then the Twins looked to win in the 11th, before the Royals tied it in the bottom of the inning. By the 12th inning of a long, rainy game the Twins finally pulled away with a 2 run victory. The final out though was clearly a blown call by the umpire (Greg Gibson), who according to the sports talk radio hosts was "just trying to go home." In fact that was the real highlight of the evening. It was 17 games into the season and the Royals fans who called into the sports show sounded like they needed to be talked off the ledge. There was the memorable caller who talked about how Mitch Maier "can't run, can't hit, can't field..." It was nice seeing that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

8. Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs at Columbus Clippers - Clippers won 4-3 in 11 innings. What an incredible ballpark. The game like most minor league games was secondary to the experience and I came away incredibly impressed by Huntington Park on a nice end of May day. I even wrote a blog post reviewing the field and finished up by giving it an A-. The fact that the game ended on a walkoff single from one of my favorite former Twins players Brian Bushcer was just the cherry on top.

7. Jazz at Cavs - Jazz won 101-90. In college I lived with three guys from Cleveland, who would talk incessantly about the Cavs, Browns and Indians. I didn't particularly want to hear about Kelly Holcumb vs. Tim Couch or whether or not the Cavs were going to get Michael Redd in the off-season. From that genesis started the roommate rivalry games between my favorite teams vs. the Cleveland teams. There would always be bragging rights on the line when teams like the Cavs and the Jazz player each other. Well just a week ago my old roommate DG and I traveled from Columbus to Cleveland to see the Cavs vs. Jazz. The game itself wasn't the best, and I don't think many fans of either team will remember it when looking back on the season. However, we scalped great seats for little money and had a fun time watching the first roommate rivalry game in person.

6. Athletics at Twins - Twins won 4-2. Manager Ron Gardenhire can do a lot of things that frustrate Twins fans. Giving Nick Punto 536 at bats in 2007 as an example. However, in this game I completely agreed with his decision to pull Kevin Slowey after 7 innings and no hits allowed. He had pitched 106 pitches (a lot from someone coming off an injury) and hadn't look sharp in the previous inning. Gardy did the right thing. I don't blame him or Slowey for the fact that the bullpen blew what might have been my best chance of seeing a *no-hitter. I blame the bullpen and specifically Jon Rauch for giving up the first hit. Still it was a great game and a good win for the Twins. However, it will always stick out in my mind as the game that could have been.

*This would be #1 on the list if the Twins could have gotten 5 more outs without giving up a hit.

5. LA Clippers at Timberwolves - Twolves won 113-111. Ever since I moved up to Minnesota the Timberwolves have been on the decline. In consecutive years they won 33, 32, 22, 24 and 15 wins. It really is pretty amazing that the Cavs last year won as many games at the Timberwolves won the previous three years combined. One of the teams that has traditionally been the worst NBA franchise are the LA Clippers. The good news to watching too terrible teams (besides the cheap scalping prices) is that they normally have high lottery picks on their rosters. In the case of the Clippers and Timberwolves M and I were able to watch Blake Griffin and Kevin Love. Both were as good as advertised and Griffin's athleticism alone was worth the small price of admission. The fact that the game was high scoring and came down to a last second winning jump shot from Michael Beasley made it one of the best games I saw all year. Maybe two wrongs do make a right?

4. Ohio State at Wisconsin - Wisconsin won 31-18. It was a beautiful day in Madison that consisted of great food (State Street Brats) and a long, leisurely day of drinking before the night game between #1 Ohio State and #18 Wisconsin. Just like last year I ended up seeing the game that decided the Big Ten title. While last year it ended well for the Buckeyes as they beat Iowa, this year's deciding game did not end well. Wisconsin was clearly the better team and deserved to beat Ohio State that night. From the opening kickoff (which they returned for a TD in the end zone where our seats were) to the dominating rush attack to the final Pryor interception it was a game that showed the Big Ten that Wisconsin was the best team in the league. I wish I had pictures to show of the game, but the unfortunately I left my camera at Camp Randall stadium as the Ohio State fans I went with rushed out of the stadium once the final outcome was determined. It could have been a better night (with Ohio State losing and me forgetting my camera), but still it was a pretty great game to attend.

3. Dolphins at Packers - Dolphins won 23-20. The day after Ohio State lost to Wisconsin I went with my friends to see what I thought would be another road team lose in Green Bay. It turned out the Dolphins put together one of their better games of the year and won in overtime thanks to a Dan Carpenter's 44 yard field goal. Cameron Wake really played well in the game as he sacked Aaron Rodgers 3 times. It was a great road win and one of the rare highlights on otherwise depressing Dolphins season.

2.Tigers at Twins - Twins won 2-1. Something about the Twins-Tigers in September/October just seems right. The game was a low scoring game that ended with Danny Valencia singling in the winning run. It wasn't game 163, but to have the Twins beat the Tigers at home by one run was a close as I was going to get in the 2010 season.

1. Dolphins at Vikings - The Dolphins won 14-10. The second week of the season I went to go see the Dolphins-Vikings game at the Metrodome with three friends (one Dolphins fan and two Vikings fans). I didn't realize at the time that this would be the pinnacle of the Dolphins season or that it might be the last game I saw at the Metrodome. At the time I just enjoyed the Dolphins creating 4 turnovers by Brett Favre and stopping AP on a goalline stand to preserve a 14-10 victory. I wasn't worried about the Jets or the Patriots games coming up while singing the Dolphins fight song from the upper deck. I wasn't even worried about another terrible performance by the offense. That day my focus was on positive thoughts like the great defense and the fact that they had won their first two games on the road. It looked like an impressive win at the time for a team that was headed towards the playoffs. It takes home the number one spot in my top 10 games ranking of 2010.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Archie Manning

My boss called me into the office today and gave me a gift. It isn't much of a stretch to say that it is the best gift a boss has ever given me. Check it out:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas gifts - deadweight loss?

I was reading this Freakonomics blog post about the economic inefficiencies of Christmas gifts. The author (Stephen J. Dubner) asked the readers to fill out the below form to describe previous holiday gifts:

Cost (estimated)_______
Value (to me)_________

The point is that the author thinks there is a lot of what he calls "deadweight loss" with Christmas gifts. As Dubner describes it "the economic inefficiency that comes about when, for instance, someone buys you a $50 gift that you value at, say $10. That's a deadweight loss of $40."

The comments section in the blog post is funny enough when looking at what people received and how much they valued the gifts. There are a lot of gifts mentioned that cost a certain amount and are valued at $0 by the receiver because they are never used. However, I would like to bring up another example. It would be the reverse of a deadweight loss that I would like to call a "net positive gift." Net positive gifts are those rare gifts that you get that are more valuable than the cost. Those certain gifts that either the receiver didn't know they wanted or has some type of sentimental value in addition to the market value.

I can think of a few gifts that stick out in my head (ex. trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium for my 25th birthday), but for this post I would like to talk about one gift in particular. One gift that had serious deadweight loss potential.

Quick back story to set up the gift. It was the summer after I graduated from Miami University and my four main high school friends had one final summer before two of us had to go off to real world jobs in *distant cities with a promise of more pay, but less vacation. My other two friends were home from college and for maybe the last time we all had plenty of time to hang out and enjoy life as friends.

*From Jackson: Minneapolis is 1037 miles away, while Seattle is 2535 miles away.

In some ways this was the ultimate summer. I could write plenty more about those perfect, relaxed days or the fact that summer was the genesis to two of my friends getting married. However, that is off subject for this post. This post is about a gift I received that summer that ended up being one of those things that I consider an ultimate net positive gift. On one of the final nights in Jackson before I left to make the long drive to Minneapolis my friends presented me with a gift. The gift was a ceramic bunny about 1 foot tall, 1 foot wide and 1 foot deep.

This bunny was sold at the knick-knack store that my friend Marty worked at during the summer. I would visit her at the store often enough and whenever I walked by the bunny I couldn't help but laugh. My thought process was that I wondered who in their right mind would buy such an fat, ugly ceramic bunny. It made no sense to me. The bunny didn't do anything but take up space, and I couldn't imagine somebody thinking that this was the missing piece in their living room.

Of course my friends looked at this and thought that if I was so clear about hating this bunny then it must mean that secretly I really wanted it. They signed the bottom of it and presented it to me as my "going away" gift. I laughed about the gift and took up with me to Minneapolis.

Almost instantly the bunny was a prominent feature in my first apartment in Minneapolis. And surprisingly I loved it. It was so ugly, cumbersome and unnecessary that it fit in perfectly. I know that makes no sense, but for some reason all of the the wrongs made a right. I have sense taken that bunny from apartment to condo to duplex. It was one of those non-negotiable things that needed to be displayed when M and I moved in together, so we found a spot for it on top of the fridge.

Anyway, there isn't much point in this story besides bringing up a positive memory and sharing the hope that maybe the worst Christmas gifts you receive (the ones with a deadweight loss) might over time provide some unforeseen value. Or you can just do what my sister and I do and just pick out each other's Christmas gifts the week before. That is one way of eliminating any deadweight loss when the receiver is in the store (usually a book store) while the giver buys the gift.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Miami University - 2010 MAC champions

Inevitably as a sports fan you sometimes might wonder why you care. Why do you follow these teams? It might be during a boring Sunday game where your *team's quarterback throws his 3rd interception and officially ends any chance of making the playoffs. It might be during a heartbreaking national title game where your **team gives up more goals in the last minute then they did in the previous 59 minutes. I would imagine even the most optimistic fans have those moments of doubt.

*The Dolphins Chad Henne.

However, there are those other moments that make it all worth the time, effort and money you invest into something as seemingly insignificant as sports. Now I know most of you probably don't care about the MAC championship. Also, I know most of *you probably don't care that much about sports. I care about both and as far as MAC championships go this past Friday's game between Miami University and Northern Illinois was pretty sweet.

*Next post will be non-sports...I promise.

Let's set up the game real quick with a few facts:
  • Miami University won the 2003 MAC championship when I was a junior. Ben Roethlisberger was the QB and he led a 13-1 team to the 10th overall ranking in the final poll. They were dominating.
  • After Roethlisberger the program started declining. They went from 13 wins to 8 wins to 7 wins to 2 wins to 6 wins to 2 wins to 1 win. You don't need to graph those out to know that would be a declining trend.
  • Miami wasn't expected to do much this year. The first line in their Blue Ribbon preview was "When accessing Miami's talent this season, don't start with the returning starters. There's a good chance they won't start this fall. Year One of the Michael Haywood era was ugly." They were projected to finish 3-9 and 5th in the MAC East division.
Somehow they were 8-4 going in to the title game. That turnaround had secured the MAC coach of the year for Coach Haywood. However, that was were the fun was supposed to stop as Northern Illinois was a 17.5 point favorite over Miami. The Huskies had a great year and won their past three games 65-30, 59-21 and 71-3. Miami on the the hand had won their last three games 24-21 (against a BGSU team that won only 2 games all year), 19-14 (against an Akron team that won only 1 game all year) and 23-3. They were by no stretch a dominant or even maybe a good team. If anything they were a lucky team, who now had to rely on their freshmen backup quarterback.

I hope I painted a pretty clear picture that Miami was not supposed to win this game. I was planning on going out with friends and didn't want to miss the first quarter because I thought there was a chance Northern Illinois was going to destroy Miami very quickly.

Well Miami scored the first touchdown and in a sign of missed opportunities to come they missed the extra point. Northern Illinois then returned a little sanity to Ford Field when they scored less than 2 minutes later to go ahead 7-6. At that point you had to wonder if the underdog took their shot and now the real game/blowout was going to start.

However, it wasn't going to be that type of game. Miami scored again (pictured below...also all pictures are from to take the lead, which was then followed by a Northern Illinois touchdown to regain the lead.

It almost seemed like Northern Illinois could do what they want and Miami was just holding on. Don't get me wrong the freshmen QB Austin Boucher (pictured below) was playing well and the rushing game wasn't struggling. It was going well, but I knew the odds were against Miami winning.

Well Miami scored again and took a 6 point lead. Then they caused a turnover and had a chance to kick a field goal for a two possession lead. They called a beautiful fake that was surprisingly aggressive for Coach Haywood. Well that is probably the last time he calls that since the offensive lineman completely whiffed on a block that would have let the holder walk into the end zone. Northern Illinois scored a td to take a 21-20 lead and as the 4th quarter ticked away ESPN kept showing the missed opportunities for the Redhawks. You could almost see the media already writing their story about Northern Illinois surviving a surprisingly close game to beat Miami.

Miami got the ball back with 2:48, one timeout and 52 yards away from the end zone. An incompletion, sack, and another incompletion led to a 4th and 20. This is one of those moments where you know the game is about to end, but you are holding out hope for a minor miracle. Boucher rolled out and threw a terrible pass that was heading towards three Northern Illinois players. In a split second it was tipped and caught by a Miami player who was 5 yards downfield from where the pass was thrown. Like Miami's season it was lucky, but give them credit for at least creating the opportunity where luck might go there way.

Still they were 31 yards away and with the kicker already missing a 42 yard field goal and an extra point there was no guarantee. Also, Miami didn't have any timeouts. Northern Illinois promptly sacked Boucher for a 2 yard loss. As the clock ticked Coach Kill of Northern Illinois (who is now going to the University of Minnesota) went for the kill with an all out blitz. Boucher stood there and threw an easy pass to Senior Armand Robinson. It seemed easy because Boucher and Robinson knew what to do and didn't hesitate. Robinson was 33 yards away from having a season win total (9) that matched his previous three years with Miami combined. He raced into the end zone with 33 seconds left putting Miami up 26-21.

At this point it was looking like Northern Illinois wouldn't have time to answer. They moved the ball down the field, but fell short when the Northern Illinois QB was tackled on the final play of the game. Miami celebrated. I celebrated. Miami won the MAC title 26-21.

There was an announced attendance of 12,031 and I can't imagine many people watched on TV. The win did nothing to shake up the bowl picture (Miami was going to Mobile regardless of the title game). The game won't be forgotten by most people because you can't forget something you never knew. However, for those players on the field and for the Miami fans watching in person or on TV it was a great win. They won their conference championship in dramatic fashion against a team that was supposed to smoke them. Congratulations to Miami for winning the 2010 MAC championship.

Friday, December 3, 2010

LeBron James and Cleveland

In my ways LeBron James and Cleveland made perfect sense. A somewhat local guy (Akron) played a sport so well that he inspired a football city to become a basketball city. He promised to bring a championship to a city that doesn't win championships. He made basketball fun and the city embrace him.

However, even before the decision one thing never quite worked between LeBron and Cleveland. One thing that was made especially clear last night while watching the Heat-Cavs. Cleveland fans might be a lot of things including irrational and mean, but the one thing that trumps all of that though is that Cleveland fans are passionate. Quite simply they care. They care more than they probably should, but they care. LeBron James doesn't care. And I write this as a fan of LeBron.

Since LeBron was a junior in high school he has been getting national attention thanks to the Sports Illustrated cover. Since then he hasn't had a life without national media attention. My theory is that he just basically blocks it out. The media attention isn't anything but white noise in the background of his life. He has his friends, his teammates and enough people to like him that it really doesn't matter what other people think. I could see that clearly last night when he was joking around near the Cavs bench and Cleveland fans were standing up shooting at him in a visibly upset manner. LeBron wasn't happy, upset or even affected by the shouts because I just don't think he gives a damn.

In some ways the fact that Cleveland fans care so much defines them as fans. It isn't that surprising when you read stories of Cleveland fans lamenting their title drought or talking about The Drive, The Shot, The Decision, etc. The fact that Cleveland cares is what made everyone know that LeBron was going to be treated with a lot of hostility last night. LeBron doesn't care and hasn't cared for awhile. He can wear Yankees hats to Indians games. He can do funny dances on the sidelines during games. He can even do interesting Nike commercials. He can pick a team like Miami and not be upset about the media's critique of him being a sidekick on a team with no fans and little chance of affecting his legacy. He can do all of this because he doesn't care. Michael Jordan has always cared even to this day. Kobe is the same way. LeBron is different. LeBron is a great player, who doesn't care and is hated because of that.